DAVIDSTOW, CORNWALL – Take one dead badger, head and all, dust with flour and herbs, season and braise for five hours — that’s the recipe for a perfect stew, according to British roadkill-eater Arthur Boyt.
From dogs and cats to polecats and mice, Boyt insists there is nothing tastier than scooping up a dead animal from the road and taking it back to his remote home in Cornwall, southwest England, to skin, gut and cook.
Boyt, 74, a nature obsessive whose house is dotted with animal skulls and taxidermy, has been eating roadkill since the 1960s and thinks more people should do the same.
“People say, ‘Ooh, do you really?’ when I say I’m having roadkill. I say ‘Well, if you tried it, you would probably enjoy it’,” Boyt says as a batch of badger stew bubbles away in his kitchen.
“It’s not in the taste of the food, it’s in the head. It’s a threshold you have to step over if you’re going to eat this kind of stuff. You say, ‘OK, this is just meat.’ “
The retired researcher’s favorite dish is dog — he has eaten two lurchers and a labrador that were hit by cars. He insists he tried to find the owners before eating them.
Boyt compares the “smooth, round, sweet” flavor of dog meat to lamb, adding: “I’d drink a red wine with it — possibly a Chianti.”
Dog may be his special treat but the chest freezer in his outhouse filled with everything from buzzards to slow-worms shows his eclectic tastes.
He also has no qualms about eating rotting meat, claiming to have cooked badgers which had been dead for two weeks and picking off maggots and ticks while preparing meat for the pot.
“I’ve eaten stuff which is dark green and stinks — it does appear that if you cook it well, its rottenness does not hinder one’s enjoyment of the animal,” he says.
“I have never been ill from eating roadkill. People have been here for a meal and been sick when they got home — but I’m sure that was something else.”
Eating wild animals found dead in the road is usually legal for individuals in England as long as the animals have been run over accidentally, not deliberately.
Boyt says he only eats animals which were hit mistakenly, finding their remains himself or receiving tip-offs from neighbors around Bodmin Moor, a dramatic wilderness reputedly haunted by a phantom wildcat.
Breaking off from putting the finishing touches to the badger stew, Boyt explains that he only cooks roadkill when his wife, a vegetarian, goes out.
“She goes to see her mother once a week so if she stays the night, it’s a grand opportunity for a big feast,” he says.
This evening, he has invited an acquaintance to share the meal — 17-year-old Daniel Greenaway, who is looking forward to his first taste of roadkill.
“This will be interesting. I’ve been told it’s nice,” says the laconic construction student, sitting down at the dinner table.
Boyt lifts the lid off the heavy stew pot and ladles out the badger’s head for himself, serving his companion some less recognizable body parts. He garnishes the stew with raw spinach and opens a bottle of Rioja to go with the meal.
Greenaway tucks in nervously before declaring that the food “ain’t bad.”
Meanwhile, Boyt delights both in the flavor and in chomping through cuts not usually noted as delicacies.
“This is very tender, it’s a coarser meat like venison,” he says. “It’s sweet, savoury, well-seasoned. Here is the first of the salivary glands — mmm!”